Monday, September 22, 2003

MAC's attack leaves victims dazed



By Mike Lopresti
Gannett News Service

The big MAC attack of 2003 is over, and we can now check in on the dazed victims.

From Kansas State coach Bill Snyder's locker room, after the No. 6 Wildcats were whacked by Marshall 27-20 ... "This becomes a true test of character for everyone in this program."

From Pittsburgh tight end Kris Wilson, after the No. 9 Panthers were upset by Toledo 35-31 ... "We have to take this on the chin, because there is nothing we can do about it now."

From Alabama tailback Shaud Williams, after the No. 21 Crimson Tide were shocked by Northern Illinois 19-16 ... "I've never been so embarrassed in my life."

From Colorado State linebacker Drew Wood, after the Rams were blown away by Miami of Ohio 41-21... "I hate to lose, but to lose like this is terrible."

No wonder the guy calling on his cell phone sounded like the happiest conference commissioner in America.

"One message is that college football is more balanced that it's ever been, within conferences and across conferences," Rick Chryst was saying of the astonishing damage his Mid-American Conference inflicted in 10 hours on Saturday. "It's tough to win a college football game.

"The second thing is, I don't know how people can bet on this."

It was a day that shook the superiority of the BCS conferences, an epidemic suggesting how much college football has truly changed.

Northern Illinois lost 23 straight in the late 1990s, including 73-7 to Kansas State. But the Huskies have beaten two ranked teams this season - Alabama and Maryland.

Pittsburgh was 21-0 all-time against the MAC. Not anymore.

Kansas State had won 41 straight non-conference home games, and was famous for inviting in lesser prey and then ripping it apart. In pieces after the Marshall visit was Kansas State's national title chances.

Ohio State was lucky to beat Bowling Green, which had already upset Purdue.

"The nice thing about our conference is that the schools share every one of these wins," Chryst said. "The phone lines are lighting up between our schools right now. Coach to coach, AD to AD, president to president."

The MAC is a league that scrambles to get bowl bids, having only the Motor City and GMAC. The Motor City opponent is the Big Ten's seventh bowl team. The SEC has eight spots.

Saturday's scoreboard suggested a very different landscape, when a MAC team can enter the most hostile places - be it Manhattan, Kan., or Ohio Stadium - and expect to win. Coming close no longer even counts.

"Short term, this is just making it that much tougher for us to schedule," Chryst said, meaning the big names will avoid MAC schools like they would avoid cholesterol.

"I think long term it gives national credibility that everyone who has been associated with this league feels is overdue."

Stat of the week

Oklahoma is now 31-0 in its history when ranked No. 1 and playing at home.

Thumbs of the week

• Up to Oklahoma. Sooner state tramples over NCAA record books, between Rashaun Woods' seven touchdown catches for Oklahoma State and Antonio Perkins' three punt returns for touchdowns for Oklahoma.

• Up to Oregon defense. Ducks put a stop to Chris Perry's Big Mo in Heisman race, holding Michigan star to 26 yards rushing, and Wolverines to minus-3 as a team.

• Up to Florida State. Seminoles 4-0 by a combined score of 133-30. Are they really back? Miami is three weeks away.

•  Down to Big Ten. Will now refer to Pac-10 as "The Bermuda Triangle." Michigan's flat tire at Oregon leaves Big Ten teams 2-15-1 in last 10 years in Pac-10 road trips.

• Down to Boston College. Paging Doug Flutie. Eagles lose again to Miami, drop to 0-14 against Hurricanes since 1984 Hail Flutie pass.




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